Surely, if you’re just starting out, you will find sites like Craigslist your primary source for finding motorcycles for sale. The problem with Craigslist is that it’s full of crap, quite frankly. But fear not, you can find great bikes and deals with a little work. As per Ride Expeditions, “Before you start looking around for your next purchase, you need to decide what bike you actually want and what your realistic budget is, and whether those two things go together.” Hopefully, you can manage to find both in the same place. For tips on how to buy a bike on Craigslist, we came up with some helpful information for you which you can check below.
Examine the Post Itself for Possible Clues to the Motorcycle’s Condition
I tend to avoid posts that don’t include a picture of the motorcycle in the post. You can easily tell if the post contains a picture by viewing the word “pic” in yellow at the end of the post link as you’re scrolling down through the list. Look as deep at the picture as you can. Notice if there is anything broken that’s not mentioned in the post. If the bike does not appear to have crash damage or leaking any fluids, and generally looks like it was cared for then that’s a good sign.
Taking a look at the quality of the post itself can lend some basic inside information about the product beyond what’s actually listed in the post. For example, does the post have numerous spelling errors or incorrect grammar? This one might be a little nitpicky, but in my opinion, if the poster doesn’t care enough to correct his or her grammar, they might take the same approach to care for their possessions.
Does the post list the aftermarket parts installed? How about the condition of expensive regularly replaced parts like tires, chain, and the sprockets? These are all necessary knowledge for a potential buyer of a motorcycle. Considering a set of tires runs roughly $250 depending on what kind you get and a new chain and sprockets usually run around $150 again depending on what kind, having to purchase those can turn a $5000 purchase into a $5400 purchase in a hurry.
Which brings me to my next point:
Get As Much Information You Can From The Owner As Possible
There are never too many questions to ask when you’re spending thousands on something. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Craigslist, it’s that people lie to make their stuff sound better and differentiate themselves from other posts. They’ll go out of their way to include useless information about the bike or even blatantly lie about the condition it’s in.
Usually, the post will have a phone number to text or call to get more information. I would highly suggest calling because you can get information quicker and faster and it’s harder to lie on the run when you’re speaking over the phone than when you’re texting.
Next up are some basic questions to ask a typical owner that should be general knowledge about the motorcycle. Even if the post already lists the answer, ask anyway.
Questions to Ask Before Buying
You’ll want to ask the owner a few questions before you decide to go to see the bike in person. Here are some useful questions when speaking to the seller:
- How many miles are on the bike? What is the odometer reading?
If it is not explicitly stated in the advertisement, and anybody making a good advertisement will include this information, then you can contact the owner and ask. If possible, you want to ask for a picture of the odometer; this gives you an exact answer that you can verify.
- Why are you selling this motorcycle?
A bad answer: “It’s been sitting in the garage for a few years. Haven’t ridden it.” Or, “It’s broken. X, Y, Z, doesn’t work.”
- What is the maintenance history of the bike?
Personally, I keep a running list in Excel with the dates that I have serviced the motorcycle and what was done to it, and whether it was done by a shop or me. I also try to keep receipts for repairs from shops. It shows the bike has been maintained and taken care of. Of course, you can’t expect everyone to do this and hand you a log of maintenance, but they should be able to tell you the last time the chain was cleaned and lubed or when the oil was changed or when the tires were changed, brake fluid…and so on.
- Was the bike ever dropped or damaged in any way?
If you are arguing for a lower price, you could use this as a bit of leverage although be prepared to look for mechanical damage on the bike. Often in minor crashes or a case of dropping the bike in a parking lot, the only things that become damaged are the fairings or turn signals of the bike. Depending on the model these can range anywhere from $100-$1000+ to purchase new so ask for a price reduction accordingly. You cannot expect to get a $500 price reduction because one of the turn signals has been scratched. For example, a set of new fairings for the 2009 Yamaha R6 example we used can cost from $250-$350 on eBay.
- When was the motorcycle last inspected?
Definitely ask about inspection status if it is not listed in the ad. You may wish to take the bike with the owner to a nearby shop to have it inspected before you, but be prepared to cover the costs of the inspection, which are generally nominal.
- Can I do a test ride on the bike?
It is up to the seller to agree to let you do a test ride and set the conditions of the test ride such as a written agreement that if damages are incurred during the test ride, the rider will buy the motorcycle or pay for the damages. But ultimately, you want to be able to at least get a feel for the bike (while it is cold and hasn’t been started up is ideal).
- Can I see the title of the motorcycle?
This is pretty self-explanatory. You don’t want to buy a bike which the seller does not actually own or is stolen. There are very few exceptions to why somebody would not have a title. The most important thing here is to verify the VIN number on the title matches the VIN number on the bike. 99% of all bikes will have it’s VIN number on the right-hand side of the upper neck, turning the bars to the left should make it easy to read.
- Can I check on _____?
Write out the parts you need to check on beforehand. Some parts you should be checking for usage and if they are working properly are:
2. Rear Mudguard
3. Non-Standard Parts
5. Chain and Sprockets
6. Engine and Chassis Numbers
7. Polished Frames and Swingarms
8. Bars, Bar Ends & Levers
11. Steering Head Bearings & Lockstops
13. Brake Discs
15. Brake Pads
You can visit Visor Down for the full list.
Avoid Rebuilt and Salvage Titles
These titles are placed on motorcycles that have been totaled in one fashion or another and rebuilt as street-legal machines.
Rebuilt or salvaged titled motorcycles might have frame damage, bent forks, bent rims, and who knows what the concussive force of a wreck might have done to the internals of the motor. I would stay stay stay away from R titles if at all possible.
Not only have these titles been involved in a heavy crash, but they’re also a pain to obtain. Also, keep in mind if you eventually want to sell this bike be prepared to scare away most buyers
Don’t Be Impulsive And Be Willing To Walk Away
This might be the most important point on this list. Don’t fall in love with a bike before you see it in person. It can be easy to get caught up in reading reviews about how good the bike is and how good it looks. While these articles should be read for informational purposes, they are also written for entertainment value and this consideration needs to be taken into account.
You might be overwhelmed with all of this information or you may not trust yourself to make the right choice.
Here is where we come in! Hire us and we’ll take out all of the guesswork. We work for you, the buyer, and will give you an unbiased opinion of the overall condition of the bike. We can arrange to pick up the bike and bring to our shop for an in-depth analysis or simply have the seller drop it off. Any honest seller should have no reservations with a pre-purchase inspection and should actually encourage it if they stand behind what they’re claiming.
As always, for you OR the seller, feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. Call us today to schedule an appointment where we will go over the entire bike you plan to buy and give you our expert advice, dial (844) 292-5386 and press option 2 for service.